Making the mobile app simple, easy and fun

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What can I say, I love trying out new apps, and I especially enjoy trying out new love location-based service (LBS) apps – except it is, when they get it completely and horribly wrong.

There’s little doubt that in the coming years location based services and augmented reality will shape the way we interact with our surroundings, search for products, and share information, and apparently a lot of other people think the same, which is why you tend to hear more and more these days about what’s hopping in LBS on your everyday tech blogs and in even more traditional media, i.e. the WSJ.

But this post isn’t about how great LBS is, it’s about how horrible some people make LBS. Forget Key Success Factors, let’s talk about Key Failure Factors or KFF’s.

What I mean by this is that mobile devices function in such a way that you have a need and then you use that device to fulfill that need. In the example of a photo, you see something cool, you snap that photo, and that need is fulfilled.

A few applications do an excellent job of fulfilling these needs, these applications are simple, they’re intuitive, and sometimes they can even even boas to be fun, and are growing at the rate of the plague in medieval europe. Unfortunately there’s only a handful of these at best, and the rest of the so-called LBS apps fall short of usability, they are in fact – painful – to use.

One such monstrosity is Whrrl, when started by Amazon veterans in ’07 was a forward thinking product indeed, but one that succumbed to what can only be explained as horrible execution. Why? Well it doesn’t make sense. It’s convoluted, it’s complex, it utilizes it’s own jargon that any new user has to learn, and best (or worst) of all, it has – get this – tutorials. Yes, tutorials.

Any phone application, or for that matter website that needs a “tutorial” is inherently flawed. Imagine – a google tutorial. You don’t need one because it’s just that simple to use. Remember web directories. They were fun to navigate weren’t they? And so now they’re done.

The user needs to “get” what’s going on from the moment they load the app / land on the page, if that user doesn’t “get” it within the first 15 seconds, chances or a repeat use / visit are slim to none. So ask yourselves objectively, if I were your regular tom dick or harry, how would I see this app. Would I get it?

If not, there may still be room to save the concept so fear not, here are a few simple ways to ensure that neither you, nor your product winds up as a jargon filled monstrosity understood only by the people who created it. :EXAMPLE:

The most important is. KISS – keep it simple, stupid, and the second is use design thinking, get everyone involved in the initial stages, but ensure there’s a goal and objective. Nothing worse than 40 cooks in the kitchen, and remember, the product should be understood by the technologically speaking lowest common denominator. In my case – my parents. If they get it. We’re good.

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